Framework sections highlighted: Action, Connect, Listening, Organise, Reach

Community organising supports UK’s first Disability Pride

16th July 2018

Brighton resident Harriet Cavanagh got involved in community organising when she joined her local community organisers, Dot and Valentina, in running a scheme called Hello Hubs, a space for local people to connect with students in Brighton.

Harriet works for Scope, the disability equality charity, and following her involvement in the Hello Hubs, a number of students who attended ended up volunteering for Scope.  Seeing value in the work Dot and Valentina were doing in the area, Harriet learned more about the process of community organising and began to apply the approach in her work.

Funded by People’s Health Trust through its Local People programme, Harriet helped to set up Scope’s Community Engagement programme, which “gives disabled people, their families and unpaid carers the time and space to think about what issues matter to them in their own local community, and the opportunity to take action on them together.”  Harriet worked with her local community organisers to identify people who could benefit from the programme, and – rather than setting up projects to meet their needs – she listened to their ideas and concerns and gave them the resources and support they needed to take action themselves.

Gradually, through applying the community organising process, groups started to form and get to know one another; more people came forward with their ideas and a number of projects have been initiated and carried out by programme’s participants.  Many of these projects, whilst starting with the self-interest of those initially involved, have gone on to challenge the status quo and begin to create lasting change in the fight for equality for those with disabilities.

One group of parents involved in the programme raised the issue of local swimming facilities being difficult to access with disabled children, so they got together and negotiated a price to run their own swim session at the local pool for disabled children.  As a result of this, the leisure centre is now taking direction from the group to improve access to their leisure facilities all across the UK.

Another initiative that came out of the Community Engagement programme was a Disability Pride Brighton group.  The group members raised funds to pay for their local community organisers to train them in how to organise effectively, and they developed and coordinated the Disability Pride 2017 event in Brighton & Hove – the first Disability Pride festival in England – which brought together around 2,000 people to celebrate “the diversity and value of disabled people with all (visible and invisible) impairments.

Lots of people contacted me to say they had experience disabled discrimination – some with invisible disabilities, who are not believed when they try to explain – and I decided to turn something negative into a positive thing.
Jenny Skelton, Disability Pride Brighton

The group are now established as their own separate organisation, bringing in funding from a range of sources to sustain the festival.  This year, Disability Pride 2018 was even bigger than the last, including a line-up of performers, DJs, speakers, and a parade.  Food was provided by Lunch Positive, a volunteer-run community space for everyone with HIV, and the event had a yellow and black theme, in keeping with their brand colours, due to yellow and black being the easiest combination of colours for those with sight impairments to see.  The Brighton based group are now supporting the establishment of other Disability Pride events across the country.

The ripple effects of the actions taken by these groups in their local area are now being felt across the UK, showing how the actions of one person simply opening up space for others to come forward with their ideas and take action in small groups, have the potential to create massive change.

Video: Latest TV Brighton talk to Jenny Skelton about Disability Pride



If you've got a great story about community organising and the positive impact it is having in your community we would love to hear from you.